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Here’s excerpts from a longer paper on my website appraising Cognitive Behavioural Therapy:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a

  • short-term,
  • practical,
  • client-based,
  • collaborative,
  • problem-solving,
  • life-skill learning

‘talking therapy’ which has had excellent and well documented success in alleviating certain emotional problems.

CBT represents a small number of different counselling schools which understand the process of change to involve the re-habituation of thoughts and (secondarily) behaviours.  The underlying assumption is that faulty emotions and behaviours flow from faulty thinking.

Thoughts =>  Feelings => Behaviours

These thoughts are themselves the result of faulty beliefs which underlie them and need to be confronted and changed.

The chief benefit of CBT for the church  is perhaps the myriad tools that have been developed to uncover faulty thought patterns and beliefs.

Christians have always known that beliefs and thought-patterns are life-altering, but three or four decades of clinical practice at ‘digging down’ into the beliefs of counsellees has produced very useful tools which can also be used by the Christian.

Identifying Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATs)

  • Ask directly – What are you telling yourself when you feel X…
  • Guided discovery (ask around the issues, get them to unearth)
  • Note emotional change as they speak – these are ‘hot cognitions’
  • Worst consequence scenarios – What would be so bad if…?
  • Imagery (some NATs are images) – Do you have a picture of yourself or of your environment when this is happening?
  • Exposure exercises – go to uncomfortable situations either physically or in your mind. How are you now thinking?
  • Offer multiple suggestions of what the NATs may be
  • Offer suggestions opposite to client’s expected response. They will usually say ‘No, no, I’m telling myself X’

Question the assumptions underlying the NATs:

  • What would be so terrible about X?
  • What would it be like for you not to do or feel X?
  • What does it say about you that you have done or felt X?
  • Are there verdicts being passed on you from God, the world and yourself associated with X?  What are they? Could you put them in words?
  • On what basis are these verdicts being passed?
  • On what basis are you believing them?

At this stage, CBT identifies the faultiness of such thinking as certain cognitive errors:

  • Arbitrary inference: e.g. ‘I was much happier when I happened to be X, therefore I must regain X’
  • Selective abstraction: e.g. ‘X (and nothing else) is what makes me special.’
  • Over-generalisation: e.g. ‘Everyone who has X is happier and more successful.’
  • Magnification (of the bad) and minimisation (of the good): e.g. ‘I may have Y and Z, but that’s nothing.  X is everything.’
  • Personalisation: e.g. ‘My performance of X wasn’t bad, was bad. Everyone must hate me.
  • Absolutist, dichotomous thinking: e.g. ‘It’s black and white, all or nothing.  Either I’m X or I’m nothing.’
  • Mind reading: e.g. ‘I know what they’re all thinking…’
  • Crystal ball: e.g. ‘I know what’s going to happen now…’
  • Catastrophizing: e.g. ‘It’s all over now. X is out of the bag, all hell will break loose.’
  • Emotional reasoning: e.g. ‘I feel X so strongly, therefore it must be a fact.’
  • Self-labelling / blame: e.g. ‘X makes me an idiot!’ ‘X makes me ugly!’

Beneath these faulty cognitions are the schemas or core beliefs that feed such thinking. CBT also offers helpful techniques in bringing these to the surface.

To identify core beliefs, look for…

  • ‘If…, then…’ statements: ‘If I’m X, then I’m a failure.’
  • ‘Shoulds’ and ‘Musts’
  • Themes in the NATs
  • Family sayings, mottoes, memories

The CBT practitioner should then get the counsellee to put this core belief into words.  Make them identify it as a rule: e.g. “I need everyone in my environment to be ok with me or else I will be destroyed.”  Simply the process of articulating this rule – exposing it as the dominating force in a person’s every decision, act and feeling – is incredibly powerful.  In Christian contexts it should lead to heart-felt and deep confession.

[Summary of intervening points]  In John 16:9 Jesus identified the criterion by which the Spirit would condemn the world for its sin – “in that people do not believe in Me.”  Through loving Christian community, the tools listed above can be a means of the Spirit uncovering those false faiths.

A key verse in Christian counselling is Proverbs 20:5: “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters but a man of understanding draws them out.”  When I encounter a Spirit-filled ‘man of understanding’ in these circumstances I am exposed for my sinful beliefs and purposes – not simply my behaviours – and therefore may be brought to a broken and contrite heart.

I say may because it is always the Spirit’s work to convict me of sin – never simply the work of logic.  More on this below…

Perhaps the chief criticism that could be levelled at CBT from a Christian perspective is this: It is not wise and persuasive words that are required but a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

At the core of CBT is the challenging of irrational beliefs with logical standards.  However the deceitful and unfathomable heart will take more than good reasoning to shake it from its madness.  The truth of God’s gospel must be driven home to the counsellee with living power by the Spirit.  Faith does not come by reasoning but by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.  Therefore there ought to be a healthy dose of proclamation to pastoral counselling, a worshipping community to surround it and the regular table fellowship of the Lord’s Supper. All the means of grace ought to be employed by the Christian counsellor.  This goes far beyond pointing out faulty cognitions!

It is not our intellects that need changing but our hearts.  The heart is the centre of a person according to Jesus and the source of our thoughts and actions.  Our true hope is in the change of hearts.  This means:

a) we will not look for non-rational means (the heart is not an anti-intellectual concept in the Bible)

b) we will employ emotional, artistic, sensory means also

c) true change is ultimately the work of God

The whole article, including a potted history of the development of CBT, can be found here.

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Part of my ordination training involved doing the Myers-Briggs personality test.  Now I realise that this is not strictly mandated by the Pastoral Epistles, but on the other hand it was a good old giggle. (See mildly amusing prayers for the 16 personality types here.)

I came out quite strongly as ENFP which means I’m an inveterate procrastinator, big-picture, no-detail, scatter-brained, last-minute, wing it with a smile and talk my way out of it later kind of guy.  At this point all the ISTJs (the opposite to me on all four spectrums) are waking up to why my blog really bugs them.  (Myers-Briggs did actually help me understand something of my bible college experience – the majority of Anglican ministers I trained with were ISTJs).

But already you’re probably sensing what everyone should know about these ‘personality types.’  They’re not neutral.  They describe real patterns alright – and extremely hard-wired patterns too.  But a lot of what they describe are patterns of sin.  A good part of each of the 16 ‘personality types’ simply identify chosen, self-protective schemes that enable us to navigate a cursed world along paths of least resistance.  Whether we buy into the ‘loud’ or the ‘shy’ persona, the ‘organized’ or ‘shambolic’, we’re basically doing the same thing – finding a way to make life work apart from Christ.  By some combination of retreating from the thorns and sewing our fig leaves we hit upon a style of relating that minimizes pain and maximizes self.

Now we cluster together in different groups of sinners because there are natural contours to our make-up, and there are unique events shaping our development.  Those internal and external differences are not in themselves sinful.  What’s more God redeems our Adamic personalities (rather than replaces them) and gives us distinct and glorious gifts.  This is all a very good thing.  Differences are not a problem.  Not at all.  The new creation will not be monochrome!  And different gifted-ness is not something to be ironed out in the name of Christian maturity.  We are trinitarian!  Our goal is not the absence of difference but the harmony of God-given distinctives.

The problem is not difference.  The problem in fact is a lack of distinctiveness to our personalities because instead we slide into personas that deny our particular identity in Christ.

How many times have we flinched from serving Jesus by making such claims as…

‘I’m just not an extrovert.’

‘I don’t really do organization.’

‘I’m not a morning person.’

I get energy from withdrawing and being alone’

‘I need order/control.’

‘I’m not good with authority/structure.’

‘I’m not a people-person.’

See more “I am not…” statements here, and their effect.

Even as we think of these deep-seated statements of identity it should be clear that they’re not just descriptive.  They are also very strongly aspirational.  I got that sense even as I took the Myers-Briggs test.  So many of the answers I gave were actually the answers that I thought the artsy, laid-back Glen should give.  In fact it was almost exactly like doing the Star Wars personality test where I tried my hardest to come out as Han Solo (but ended up as Princess Leia.  My wife was the Emporer – but that’s another post).  The point is our reactions to events are partly innate but also strongly determined by the persona we’d like to hide in.

So who’s identity are we hiding in and why?

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  (Col 3:1-4)

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Rest of series:

I am not…

Tearing down the idol of my personality

Conclusions

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Luther has said:

“The Holy Spirit knows that a thing has only such meaning and value for a man as he assigns to it in his thoughts.”

The lens through which we view our experiences of the world are all important.  Suffering could either be a catastrophic blow or the opportunity to know Christ and fellowship more deeply in His sufferings.  My sins could cause a ‘spiritual sulk’ and extended dry-ness or a deeper appreciation of the blood of Christ and His cleansing.  It all depends on the meaning I assign to these things in my thoughts.

CBT is not so good at showing how these thoughts flow from our hearts (Mark 7:21).  But Luther knows how to preach to the heart such that our perspective is shaped by the gospel word.  And in his Galatians commentary, Luther puts this idea into practice.  Not only is the truth of the gospel proclaimed but the Christian is exhorted to speak this truth again and again into the deepest recesses of the heart.   When the truth of the gospel shapes our thinking more fully, then we will be able to stand up against the devil’s accusations.

Click here for extracts from Luther’s Galatians where he shows us how to preach to ourselves.

Here’s just one example from Galatians 1:4:

You will readily grant that Christ gave Himself for the sins of Peter, Paul, and others who were worthy of such grace. But feeling low, you find it hard to believe that Christ gave Himself for your sins. Our feelings shy at a personal application of the pronoun “our,” and we refuse to have anything to do with God until we have made ourselves worthy by good deeds.

This attitude springs from a false conception of sin, the conception that sin is a small matter, easily taken care of by good works; that we must present ourselves unto God with a good conscience; that we must feel no sin before we may feel that Christ was given for our sins. This attitude is universal and particularly developed in those who consider themselves better than others. Such readily confess that they are frequent sinners, but they regard their sins as of no such importance that they cannot easily be dissolved by some good action, or that they may not appear before the tribunal of Christ and demand the reward of eternal life for their righteousness. Meantime they pretend great humility and acknowledge a certain degree of sinfulness for which they soulfully join in the publican’s prayer, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” But the real significance and comfort of the words “for our sins” is lost upon them. The genius of Christianity takes the words of Paul “who gave himself for our sins” as true and efficacious. We are not to look upon our sins as insignificant trifles. On the other hand, we are not to regard them as so terrible that we must despair. Learn to believe that Christ was given, not for picayune and imaginary transgressions, but for  mountainous sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for sins that can be discarded, but for sins that are stubbornly ingrained. Practice this knowledge and fortify yourself against despair, particularly in the last hour, when the memory of past sins assails the conscience. Say with confidence: “Christ, the Son of God, was given not for the righteous, but for sinners. If I had no sin I should not need Christ. No, Satan, you cannot delude me into thinking I am holy. The truth is, I am all sin. My sins are not imaginary transgressions, but sins against the first table, unbelief, doubt, despair, contempt, hatred, ignorance of God, ingratitude towards Him, misuse of His name, neglect of His Word, etc.; and sins against the second table, dishonor of parents, disobedience of government, coveting of another’s possessions, etc. Granted that I have not committed murder, adultery, theft, and similar sins in deed, nevertheless I have committed them in the heart, and therefore I am a transgressor of all the commandments of God.

“Because my transgressions are multiplied and my own efforts at self-justification rather a hindrance than a furtherance, therefore Christ the Son of God gave Himself into death for my sins.” To believe this is to have eternal life.

Let us equip ourselves against the accusations of Satan with this and similar passages of Holy Scripture. If he says, “Thou shalt be damned,” you tell him: “No, for I fly to Christ who gave Himself for my sins. In accusing me of being a damnable sinner, you are cutting your own throat, Satan. You are reminding me of God’s fatherly goodness toward me, that He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. In calling me a sinner, Satan, you really comfort me above measure.” With such heavenly cunning we are to meet the devil’s craft and put from us the memory of sin.

Click here for more.

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Here’s excerpts from a longer paper on my website appraising Cognitive Behavioural Therapy:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a

  • short-term,
  • practical,
  • client-based,
  • collaborative,
  • problem-solving,
  • life-skill learning

‘talking therapy’ which has had excellent and well documented success in alleviating certain emotional problems.

CBT represents a small number of different counselling schools which understand the process of change to involve the re-habituation of thoughts and (secondarily) behaviours.  The underlying assumption is that faulty emotions and behaviours flow from faulty thinking.

Thoughts =>  Feelings => Behaviours

These thoughts are themselves the result of faulty beliefs which underlie them and need to be confronted and changed.

The chief benefit of CBT for the church  is perhaps the myriad tools that have been developed to uncover faulty thought patterns and beliefs.

Christians have always known that beliefs and thought-patterns are life-altering, but three or four decades of clinical practice at ‘digging down’ into the beliefs of counsellees has produced very useful tools which can also be used by the Christian.

Identifying Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATs)

  • Ask directly – What are you telling yourself when you feel X…
  • Guided discovery (ask around the issues, get them to unearth)
  • Note emotional change as they speak – these are ‘hot cognitions’
  • Worst consequence scenarios – What would be so bad if…?
  • Imagery (some NATs are images) – Do you have a picture of yourself or of your environment when this is happening?
  • Exposure exercises – go to uncomfortable situations either physically or in your mind. How are you now thinking?
  • Offer multiple suggestions of what the NATs may be
  • Offer suggestions opposite to client’s expected response. They will usually say ‘No, no, I’m telling myself X’

Question the assumptions underlying the NATs:

  • What would be so terrible about X?
  • What would it be like for you not to do or feel X?
  • What does it say about you that you have done or felt X?
  • Are there verdicts being passed on you from God, the world and yourself associated with X?  What are they? Could you put them in words?
  • On what basis are these verdicts being passed?
  • On what basis are you believing them?

At this stage, CBT identifies the faultiness of such thinking as certain cognitive errors:

  • Arbitrary inference: e.g. ‘I was much happier when I happened to be X, therefore I must regain X’
  • Selective abstraction: e.g. ‘X (and nothing else) is what makes me special.’
  • Over-generalisation: e.g. ‘Everyone who has X is happier and more successful.’
  • Magnification (of the bad) and minimisation (of the good): e.g. ‘I may have Y and Z, but that’s nothing.  X is everything.’
  • Personalisation: e.g. ‘My performance of X wasn’t bad, I was bad. Everyone must hate me.
  • Absolutist, dichotomous thinking: e.g. ‘It’s black and white, all or nothing.  Either I’m X or I’m nothing.’
  • Mind reading: e.g. ‘I know what they’re all thinking…’
  • Crystal ball: e.g. ‘I know what’s going to happen now…’
  • Catastrophizing: e.g. ‘It’s all over now. X is out of the bag, all hell will break loose.’
  • Emotional reasoning: e.g. ‘I feel X so strongly, therefore it must be a fact.’
  • Self-labelling / blame: e.g. ‘X makes me an idiot!’ ‘X makes me ugly!’

Beneath these faulty cognitions are the schemas or core beliefs that feed such thinking. CBT also offers helpful techniques in bringing these to the surface.

To identify core beliefs, look for…

  • ‘If…, then…’ statements: ‘If I’m X, then I’m a failure.’
  • ‘Shoulds’ and ‘Musts’
  • Themes in the NATs
  • Family sayings, mottoes, memories

The CBT practitioner should then get the counsellee to put this core belief into words.  Make them identify it as a rule: e.g. “I need everyone in my environment to be ok with me or else I will be destroyed.”  Simply the process of articulating this rule – exposing it as the dominating force in a person’s every decision, act and feeling – is incredibly powerful.  In Christian contexts it should lead to heart-felt and deep confession.

[Summary of intervening points]  In John 16:9 Jesus identified the criterion by which the Spirit would condemn the world for its sin – “in that people do not believe in Me.”  Through loving Christian community, the tools listed above can be a means of the Spirit uncovering those false faiths.

A key verse in Christian counselling is Proverbs 20:5: “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters but a man of understanding draws them out.”  When I encounter a Spirit-filled ‘man of understanding’ in these circumstances I am exposed for my sinful beliefs and purposes – not simply my behaviours – and therefore may be brought to a broken and contrite heart.

I say may because it is always the Spirit’s work to convict me of sin – never simply the work of logic.  More on this below…

Perhaps the chief criticism that could be levelled at CBT from a Christian perspective is this: It is not wise and persuasive words that are required but a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

At the core of CBT is the challenging of irrational beliefs with logical standards.  However the deceitful and unfathomable heart will take more than good reasoning to shake it from its madness.  The truth of God’s gospel must be driven home to the counsellee with living power by the Spirit.  Faith does not come by reasoning but by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.  Therefore there ought to be a healthy dose of proclamation to pastoral counselling, a worshipping community to surround it and the regular table fellowship of the Lord’s Supper. All the means of grace ought to be employed by the Christian counsellor.  This goes far beyond pointing out faulty cognitions!

It is not our intellects that need changing but our hearts.  The heart is the centre of a person according to Jesus and the source of our thoughts and actions.  Our true hope is in the change of hearts.  This means:

a) we will not look for non-rational means (the heart is not an anti-intellectual concept in the Bible)

b) we will employ emotional, artistic, sensory means also

c) true change is ultimately the work of God

The whole article, including a potted history of the development of CBT, can be found here.

.

Read Full Post »

With regards to pastoral care, I’ve been given the advice many times: “Don’t spend longer than an hour with someone.  If 55 minutes isn’t helpful to them, 3 hours won’t be either.”

The trouble with that advice is that it’s bunkum.  Total bunkum.

I suspect it comes straight out of the counselling world where conversations are engineered one-on-one, between strangers, strictly defined as helper and helpee, in a neutral space, at a set time, divorced from the rest of the world, the rest of the week, and the whole web of relationships in which these problems are lived out.  It’s all on the clock.  Everything is parcelled out.  Kept separate.  The counsellor especially.

Is that really our model for pastoral care in the church?

Please no.

For many who operate within this professionalized system, they may force themselves to listen for as much as 45 minutes before dispensing their wisdom.  And, to them, that seems like a long time.  I want to ask them, when is the last time you listened to somebody for three hours?  You’ll remember it.  And so will they.

If you think you need a PhD in psychology to figure out how people tick, I can save you a lot of time.  Don’t spend 3 years listening to Freud, spend 3 hours listening to your friend.  I reckon any Christian can spot the ‘dynamics’ of a person’s life if they’ve listened for 3 hours.

And, my goodness, what a taste of grace.  Not receiving someone magnanimously into your busy schedule for a precious slice of your attention.  Rather, leaving behind your schedule and entering into their world to give yourself to them.  That sounds like the gospel doesn’t it?  And the professional model sounds like human religion.  So repent of it.

I’m not saying don’t meet up regularly to disciple and shepherd – meals, drinks, walks – put them in the diary as a regular thing, great.  But you need to be prepared to drop everything, drive across country, cancel those meetings and even (ee gads!) pair back your sermon prep and give people a taste of the gospel in the way you give them your time.

The quality of your pastoral care will not be measured in the discrete hours you dole out, but in the gift of yourself to needy people.

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This is a long one but I won’t be posting for a while so read at your leisure…

 

crisis1) This is the occasion for change not the reason for change.

It’s great if you’ve come to some sort of crisis moment.  It’s good that you want to change.  But you ought to know that this is the struggle of your life.

I don’t mean: This is the struggle of your life.  I mean: This is the struggle of your life.  Welcome.

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Struggle2) If you’re not struggling, you’re losing.  Or worse, you’re not even a Christian.

Christians struggle.  We are the product of two births.  Our flesh is from Adam, our Spirit from Christ.  If you’re not struggling then you’re simply gratifying the cravings of your flesh (however respectable you may look).  And perhaps you don’t even have the Spirit.  Let the comfortable be disturbed.  And let the strugglers be comforted – your battle is a sign of the Spirit’s work.

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 Fruitful-Tree3) If you are struggling, you have a Power within you to live new creation life.

If Christ is in you, you have the power that called forth the universe and He is determined to bring supernatural change.  Mark 4 comes to mind – the power of Christ’s word can and will produce 30, 60, 100-fold growth but of course it will be as gradual and organic as the growth of a seed.  Nonetheless this is what you are aiming for – not simply the correction of some annoying habits but the transformation of your character through Christ’s word.  Be encouraged by your struggle – it means that an other-worldly Power is at work and will transform you in ways you can only begin to imagine.

..

 

prodigal son3  4) Your righteousness is entirely outside and above you.

These problems do not define you.  Your success at handling these problems does not define you.  Christ defines you. We don’t say ‘My name’s Glen and I’m an alcoholic’ (or insert your problem of choice).  We say ‘My name’s Glen and I’m a saint clothed in Christ… I also happen to struggle with…’  We don’t struggle for but struggle from freedom.

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community5) You must deal with this struggle in community

All the real action happens outside of you.  You need the word of life to come from outside.  As Bonhoeffer says ‘The Christ in the word of a brother is stronger than the Christ in my heart.’  At the same time you need to put words to your darkness and, again, bring it outside.  Sin thrives in the dark, you must bring it into the light.  1 John 1:5-10. James 5:16.  Find someone.

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David confessing6) The person you reveal yourself to be in the midst of these sins is the person you’ve always been. 

We tend to think that we’re generally righteous and these problems have been a blip.  David knew better.  When he committed adultery and murder he realised that this was the person he’d been ‘from birth – sinful from the time my mother conceived me.’  (Ps 51:5)  These problems are just you with the hand-brake off.  Ugly huh?

But know also…

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prodigal son27) The person you reveal yourself to be in the midst of these sins is the person Jesus loves and has forgiven.

Jesus did not die for ‘me-on-my-best-behaviour’.  ‘While we were still sinners Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:8).  ‘God justifies the wicked’ (Rom 4:5).  Which ‘me’ does Jesus love?  The cleaned up me?  No.  Jesus loves the me I showed myself to be in my worst moments.  When we grasp that Jesus is committed to us even and especially as we stink of sin it’s a hundred times worse but a thousand times better.  We must grasp the depths of this love for me the sinner – this is fundamental to real change.

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Jesus looking8) With 4-7 in place – you can learn to hate and hope appropriately.

Focussed in on ourselves we tend either to lose hatred or hope.  Either we don’t really hate our sin because we’re too attached to the ‘me’ who committed it.  Or we don’t really hope for transformation because we can’t imagine such a ‘me’ changing.  The problem is that we’re too attached to ‘me’.  Number 4) is the truth that releases us from that attachment and number 5) is the practice of it.  We then learn how to address this ‘me’ the way we’d address a brother or sister in sin.  As another addresses you in your sin with appropriate hatred and hope, learn to see things from this much healthier perspective.

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solutions9) Your problems are really your ‘solutions’.

You’ll be tempted to think…

“I have a recurring personal problem with X.”

Don’t be so sure.  Probably the truth is something much closer to…

“X is my solution to its insufferable alternative – Y”

X is a chosen strategy to avoid what you consistently reckon to be an even worse state of affairs.  You need to be thinking about what is Y, and why Y is so unbearable that you’d choose X.  Your deep fears (of Y) may be completely irrational and out of control.  But your chosen strategy, X, is not.

Therefore…

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strategy10)  Even the most seemingly compulsive and irrational ‘personal problems’ (non-organically caused) are, on deeper examination, chosen and intended strategies.

It might take some digging (Prov 20:5), but you will find volition at play.  This ought to reinforce the hope and hatred mix.  Hope because you’re not bound to sin like this.  Hatred because you’ve consistently and deliberately chosen these sins in defiance of Jesus and His way.

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nothing-but-the-blood11) Until you’ve diagnosed your problem as one for which Christ is necessary, you haven’t defined your real problem.

Your problem is not low self esteem or negative thoughts or panic attacks or over-eating or self-harm etc etc.  None of those require the blood of God.  Until you do the hard work on 4-7 and get to the heart issues – your angry defiance of your Father, your petrified mistrust of Christ, your obdurate resistance of the Spirit – you’re treating your wound lightly.

Jesus had to die.  Divine wisdom and heavenly encouragement have never been enough to address the human problem.  You don’t just need a bible study and a pep talk.  You need bloody, wrath-bearing atonement on your behalf, while all you can do is watch aghast.  Until you see your problems in that light you won’t be appropriately humbled and all your efforts at change will be a re-arranging of the flesh.

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resurrection12) Until you’ve set your hopes on a change for which Christ is necessary, you’re not aiming for Christian growth. 

It’s tempting to aim for a re-arranging of the flesh.  For instance, you may struggle with pornography and therefore make your resolution to be porn free from now on.  Well, ok.  But Ephesians 3 tells you that resurrection power is available to effect in you far above all you can ask or imagine (Eph 1:19-20; 3:20).  To aim for a clean internet history is not really to aim for Christian growth.  To aim for a pure heart that knows God and a burning zeal for Christ that takes you out of yourself and into the world – that’s your prayer.  And it’s impossible.  You can’t do it.  Only resurrection Power can.  But that’s where you aim if you want Christian growth.  And kicking pornography is just a little part of that.

Putting 11) and 12) together you get this:

Christ’s cross tells you to dig deeper,

Christ’s resurrection tells you to reach higher.

Therefore

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prayer13) Pray

The cross drives us down so that we call out in desperation, the resurrection lifts us up so that we ask for that which is humanly impossible.  There is therefore a gospel shape as well as a gospel power to our prayers.  Perhaps use the Lord’s Prayer as your guide.  Every line of the prayer calls us to change.  Don’t move on in the prayer until you’ve prayed through the issues that each line is raising.  Here is the really hard work of change, but only because it’s so powerful.

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Scheming14) In your desire to change there will be both flesh and Spirit at work.

Your flesh wants you to change to gain control, look better, escape guilt feelings, avoid the need for dependence, achieve a righteousness of your own, etc, etc.  Bring these false motives before the Lord and repent of your repentance strategies.  True repentance comes from a brokenness that realizes even our tears of regret need washing in Christ’s blood.

At the same time be aware that there is a true yearning from your new nature – a deeper desire to know Christ and be conformed to His image.  Get in touch with the Spirit’s stirrings here through prayer and conversation with others.  Figuring out why you want to change and having this answer come from the right place is priceless.

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entitlement14) Address your entitlement spirit?

The flesh is ever desiring to establish its own righteousness.  How, specifically, are you seeking to make a name for yourself?  According to your flesh – what are you trying to earn?  What do you feel you are owed?  What do you have to do to earn this?  What has blocked your goals?  Having thought about this, try to articulate the shape of your entitlement spirit.  How does the gospel address your entitlement spirit in general?  Specifically, how does the gospel address the specifics of your entitlement spirit?  Real change is happening when the Gospel demolishes your flesh-strategies.

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15) You already have the solution

Not within you!  In Christ.

4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  (John 15:4-9)

Allow these words to live in you and allow yourself to live in Christ.

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fat cat16) Some or all of these things are true of you:

You have little joy, take yourself too seriously, don’t have the friendships you need and are not sleeping/eating/exercising as you should.

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